There’s an old jibe directed at the passionate, idealistic revolutionary: “Oh, him, he loves humanity – it’s people he can’t stand.” I always reverse it: I like people, it’s humanity that repels me. That’s why politics is so depressing – it is collective action by humanity. One-to-one, you can reason with people. In politics, the game is to win, to gain power, as in warfare, and individuals are the least of it. The compromises and contradictions can be disturbing.
A case in point: The special Senate race for the seat vacated by Ted Kennedy on his death. Martha Coakley, the Democrat is being pressed into a surprisingly close race by a Republican challenger. Obama is stumping for her, mindful of the tremendous importance of maintaining a Dem lock on the Senate in this day of 60-votes-or-nothing. Why am I so troubled?
Martha Coakley played a despicable role in the ruination of individual lives in the aftermath of the daycare witch hysteria of the 80s. She refused to release Gerald Amirault long after it was very clear that he was a victim of a modern day Salem witchcraft hysterial episode. His case, and others related to it, are some of the more shocking miscarriages of justice to be found in recent history.
Does she deserve to be Senator? I’d still vote for her because I despise the Republican party and its stalwart who is “running against healthcare.” Does he deserve to be Senator? Not in my book. That’s party politics, the balance of power, the greater good of the country. After all, I support Obama’s program. Still, it makes me ill that Coakley isn’t being called to account for her actions.
Right-wing, conservative, Republican critics will, of course, talk as though this cynical realpolitk is limited to the Democrats, the liberals, the Left, yada, yada, yada, and that they alone understand principle, and the importance of the individual. Utter rubbish. They make their own horrid compromises and amoral calculations, not to mention that they pursue policies that run roughshod over these things. That’s politics.